If you make an improvement, it’s not going to be to the industry as a whole — it’ll be specific. And actually improvements have always been specific; it’s just that the industries have since multiplied and narrowed. Inventors once made drops into a puddle, but the puddle then expanded into an ocean. It doesn’t make the drops any less innovative.
Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Friday, September 13th, 2019
The Jevons Paradox in action:
Even if folks are on a new fast network, they’re very likely choking on the code we’re sending, rendering the potential speed improvements of 5G moot.
The longer I spend in this field, the more convinced I am that web performance is not a technical problem; it’s a people problem.
Saturday, October 21st, 2017
A tale of the Fermi paradox featuring data preservation via tardigrade as a means of transmitting information beyond the great filter.
Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Steven Johnson dives deep into the METI project, starting with the Arecibo message and covering Lincos, the Drake equation, and the Fermi paradox.
He also wrote about what he left out of the article and mentions that he’s writing a book on long-term decision making.
In a sense, the METI debate runs parallel to other existential decisions that we will be confronting in the coming decades, as our technological and scientific powers increase. Should we create superintelligent machines that exceed our own intellectual capabilities by such a wide margin that we cease to understand how their intelligence works? Should we ‘‘cure’’ death, as many technologists are proposing? Like METI, these are potentially among the most momentous decisions human beings will ever make, and yet the number of people actively participating in those decisions — or even aware such decisions are being made — is minuscule.
Friday, January 18th, 2013
A well-written white paper on time travel. Alas, it relies a bit too much on semantic nitpickery to offer any real insight.
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
A question of time
Some of the guys at work occasionally provide answers to .net magazine’s “big question” feature. When they told me about the latest question that landed in their inboxes, I felt I just had to stick my oar in and provide my answer.
I’m publishing my response here, so that if they decide not to publish it in the magazine or on the website (or if they edit it down), I’ve got a public record of my stance on this very important topic.
The question is:
If you could send a message back to younger designer or developer self, what would it say? What professional advice would you give a younger you?
This is my answer:
Rather than send a message back to my younger self, I would destroy the message-sending technology immediately. The potential for universe-ending paradoxes is too great.
I know that it would be tempting to give some sort of knowledge of the future to my younger self, but it would be the equivalent of attempting to kill Hitler—that never ends well.
Any knowledge I supplied to my past self would cause my past self to behave differently, thereby either:
- destroying the timeline that my present self inhabits (assuming a branching many-worlds multiverse) or
- altering my present self, possibly to the extent that the message-sending technology never gets invented. Instant paradox.
But to answer your question, if I could send a message back to a younger designer or developer self, the professional advice I would give would be:
When, at some point in the future, you come across the technology capable of sending a message like this back to your past self, destroy it immediately!
But I know that you will not heed this advice. If you did, you wouldn’t be reading this.
On the other hand, I have no memory of ever receiving this message, so perhaps you did the right thing after all.
Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Thursday, January 24th, 2008
The madness of the default behaviour in IE8 explained in a beautiful koan.